SW/AG

Project-ing: Blood In The Water

Nearing the 4th bolt on Darkness At Noon 

Nearing the 4th bolt on Darkness At Noon 

It's been two Mondays since my first weekend on Darkness at Noon. While the rest of Team SW/AG has been ticking projects off their list left and right, I've slowly been chipping away at my line through muscle memory and sequencing. Just this past Monday things started coming together in nice fluid and calculated movements. It's about this time on projects where the anxiety that sets in just before a redpoint attempt comes from foreseeable accomplishments instead of the seemingly impossible difficulty that lies ahead. 

The weekdays in between Monday's day trips out to Smith are spent rehearsing the movements over and over at all times of the day. Since I can't get out to Smith but once a week when AntiGravity Equipment is closed for business I have to make the absolute best of each trip. The next best thing to actually getting out there is to climb sequences through visualization using a photograph of the route to map out every hand hold; every foot hold. Once the sequences are mapped out then I try to rehearse the feeling of how much energy to use on every hold and I try to remember as best I can how every hold feels. The visualization can get pretty damn close to the actual experience complete with elevated heart rate and changes in breathing patterns. The more I can bring up from memory, the more confident I feel on actual attempts. 

I feel like right now I'm at somewhat of a halfway point and there's a slight sense of urgency to push harder at linking bigger sections. I'm not as worried about the slow decline in peak performance as I am about the discomfort in my fingers. During the process of climbing the route from bolt to bolt I often over-crimped in attempts to hang on move after move. I bruised the cartilage on the top of a finger on my left hand from bending the joints so hard in the opposite direction. Now that I have enough muscle memory built up, that isn't so much of a problem and the bruising is healing quickly with daily ice therapy and lots of rest days between climbs. Still, every time I reach a new high point on the route, new territory can bring on over-crimping and lock-offs as I decipher the new sequences. 

Still, the process is crazy unbelievable. Comparing all the huff and puff over Labor Day weekend with the flow of move after move 3 Mondays later, movement mixes from one sequence to the next with precision instead of stop-and-go movements filled with second guesses and stuttered executions.

Meghan Austin warming up on Irreverence 

Meghan Austin warming up on Irreverence 

As of last Monday, I managed to dial in the first 6 bolts on the route. I've been able to link 1-6 with one fall in between. This long sequence is dependant on a dynamic deadpoint that I use because there is a crux crimp I just can't seem to master. The deadpoint is lower percentage than the static movement but has better holds. The dynamic movement between the lower left hand pocket to the higher right hand pocket is dependant on high-ish feet and uses a shallow intermediate mono pocket for the right hand. The higher right hand pocket is pretty close to full extension for me so it's hard to overshoot (actually a positive thing) but undershooting it is a sure fall rendering the redpoint useless pretty close to the ground. Sticking that hold moves me up into another deadpoint on crimps not quite as severe. Completing that sequence moves me into good holds to clip bolt number 4 and bolts 5 and 6 are gimme's by comparison. So for now I just envision getting every move just right over and over again in the first 60 feet of climbing. 

Cameron Apple starting up on Heresy 

Cameron Apple starting up on Heresy 

I managed to fall my way up bolts 7 and 8 which aren't as technical as the lower section but fatigue from the sequences below plays heavily into the sequences that comprise this new section. For now, they remain a second part to the first six bolts. Before I even consider this new territory, 1-6 need to pass uninterrupted. 

The next weekend I'll have a rare few days off in a row spent visiting friends out of town. That's a day I can't afford to miss if I have any chance of sending by the first week of October. One of my friends working at Stoneworks agreed to man the desk at AntiGravity Equipment for me so I could head down with Meghan and Cameron for a day trip so I wouldn't have to miss a day. While this blog post is being read we'll likely just be starting down the trail picking warm ups and contemplating goals. Cameron is at the last move on Heresy and is likely to send. Meghan redpointed Silver Streak at French's Dome and will likely be picking a brand new route off the tick list to work on. I'll be looking forward to taking a big chunk out of this route. There's blood in water, even if it's just a few drops. 

Project-ing: Attaining The Unattainable

Juan Rodriguez on Darkness At Noon

Juan Rodriguez on Darkness At Noon

I like to think it's all in the attitude when it comes to projecting. Attitude can enhance your experience and motivate you through the difficulties or it can crush your spirit like an empty Coke can bound for the recycling center. Attitude is made up of so many different influences though and for me, the right attitude when working a project has come about largely due to lots of experience. 

Missy Apple on 5 Gallon Buckets

Missy Apple on 5 Gallon Buckets

Veronica Randolph on Time To Power 

Veronica Randolph on Time To Power 

The first part is selecting the project. Grades have taken somewhat of a backseat in my selection process. For some time now I've been selecting projects more on the aesthetics of the line and the challenges it presents regardless of the grade. For example, I'm a fanatic of mastering control over my emotions and there are plenty of R rated routes at Smith that don't go into the teens (Spank The Monkey or Dreamin') in order for them to test my mental fortitude. 

That's not to say that the grade is completely ignored, it's just not at the top of things I use in the selection process. When I consider the grade, I try to look for lines that are considered benchmark for the grade and see how they line up with other criteria in the selection process. In this way I feel like I've raised the limits of my abilities and greatly enjoyed the entire process of completing my projects. This method of selecting projects has also helped me to avoid the pitfall of number chasing. I also feel like it's helped me to keep climbing in perspective and to show respect for these beautifully created masterpieces provided by mother nature. I may adopt a confident attitude on something at my limit that is steep with bomber holds because I'm comfortable in that terrain but I need only to get on 11a friction slab on granite for a friendly reminder that the number is only a small part of the challenge. 

Darkness At Noon is one of those "dream lines" for me that has all the right elements for the next push in my boundaries. To me, the line itself is both visually inspiring and terrifying at the same time. With few variations in sequences, the line is stunningly and clearly outlined in chalk from bottom to top on one of the most popular walls in the park; easily identifiable from as far as the parking lot. It commands full attention even with both feet on the ground. 

I tried the route a handful of times during some weekend trips the year before. Even though I couldn't fathom putting all 100' feet together in a single push, I was hooked on the movement, its naturally artistic design, and the challenge of getting the former to complement the latter.  

If you've had a chance to look through other sections of the AntiGravity Equipment Blog, you may have come across 12 weeks of entries dedicated to training for this project. This Labor Day weekend was to be the first time I tried the project since the training began in June

Catching air! Photo by Missy Apple

Catching air! Photo by Missy Apple

On Saturday, the first time I tried the route, I literally couldn't get off the ground. Barely holding on to what I thought might pass for start holds I tried desperately to claw my way up just a few feet off the ground; gravity had something very different to say about it. I felt like a cat desperately trying to climb a pane of glass. After a few futile attempts I jugged the line a couple of feet past the start and tried the route from there. I managed to desperately clip 3 bolts and lowered off after a handful of falls. This is where attitude came heavily into play. I could have very easily adopted a disappointed attitude. I could have come down after clipping those three bolts feeling completely disheartened. 12 weeks of sacrifice and commitment just so I could desperately pedal my way up on painful mono and two finger pockets and seemingly non existent feet one bolt at a time? Those thoughts never had a chance to cultivate. Instead I distinctly remember thinking that this felt very hard but I was just going to have to dig my heels in and practice. Next I remember thinking that it felt appropriate for the grade and that I didn't select it because it was going to be a "gimme". I remember thinking that even though the movement felt impossible, it wasn't because I'd made upward progress. Soon a waterfall of uplifting thoughts followed like maybe trying again when the route was in the shade, and making sure to break the route down into as small a goals as necessary to see progress. If that meant dialing in the moves to perfection on just the first bolt, so be it; it would be progress. Lastly I remember thinking how hard previous projects had felt in the beginning. How impossible they felt early on in my attempts and how as time went on, I got better at making each movement, using just the right amount of energy and soon after putting bigger and bigger chunks together until finally redpoint attempts were so close I could see the send in my dreams. 

Sure enough, I gave the route a second attempt that Saturday afternoon once it had gone in the shade. I had a decent amount of energy having climbed only a few routes throughout the day. With the first bolt clipped and some reference points from the attempts earlier in the day, I felt better prepared. The moves were still incredibly difficult but I was able to get off the ground much much easier this time and made quite a few moves in sequence before having to take. My friend Cameron helped me rehearse hold choices and so began the process of committing sequences to memory. I walked away feeling super encouraged and eager to try again over the weekend. 

Sunday was an active rest day. I only climbed about 4 routes, mostly to get a good vantage point for photos of Team SW/AG on their various project routes. Cameron, Meghan, and Missy had all trained along side me and were in full send mode that day ticking routes off their list and spying other projects to try over the course of the month. Steven and Veronica, who are about a third of the way through their first training cycle were doing amazing with their newlye acquired skills. This also served as motivation for trying my project on the following day. Clipping bolts, placing gear, or pushing past their fears, the team's commitment to their training was in full display that day. 

Steven Randolph onsighting Screaming Yellow Zonkers, Mesa Verde Wall. 

Steven Randolph onsighting Screaming Yellow Zonkers, Mesa Verde Wall. 

Monday was my final day at Smith before returning back to work at AntiGravity Equipment. With a new game plan in mind, I decided to wait until the afternoon to try Darkness At Noon, once it had gone into the shade. I climbed just enough routes that morning to stay warm without exerting too much energy, saving the majority of it for the project. The vibe was incredible that morning as I took photos of Meghan and Steven onsighting routes on their list. Later, through the lens I watched Cameron complete one of the harder lines on his list in the Shipwreck Gully. 

Meghan Austin onsighting Light On The Path, Morning Glory Wall

Meghan Austin onsighting Light On The Path, Morning Glory Wall

At about 1:30pm, when the team was starting to feel a decrease in energy and The Dihedrals had gone into the shade, we headed over so I could give my project a few final goes before heading home. My goal was to do my best to link the first 3 bolts together as smoothly as possible and commit the sequences to memory. As I tied in, I felt confident in the temperature and the breeze that was cooling off the rock. With the first bolt clipped, I strapped my shoes on, did my safety checks, grabbed the start holds and went for it. Magic! I fluidly deadpointed the first pocket, easily completed a hand/foot match on the start hold and I was off like a stealth ninja slowly (but still painfully) picking my way through micro-crimps and 1, 2, and 3-finger pockets. The falls began at my high point. I had already completed what I'd set out to do for that day so everything now was just recon for next weekend. My skin was sore and the holds felt miserable but I knew I was building muscle memory and it would be worth it. With morale finally starting to wane and fatigue setting in, I rested for about 5 minutes after my last fall and called down for just one last try. 

Cameron Apple on Blue Light Special, Shipwreck Wall

Cameron Apple on Blue Light Special, Shipwreck Wall

It was on this try that I stuck some mico-crimps just right and my feet magically fused with the rock and got me close enough to clip that 4th bolt. New high point!! Standing on the ledge in disbelief I called down that I was going to continue up. I clipped an additional two bolts before a new crux brought me to a halt. Ecstatic with the unforeseen progress, I called down to be lowered. For someone that still had much work to put in on the project I was still feeling 10 feet tall! 

Juan Rodriguez on Darkness At Noon, Photo by Meghan Austin 

Juan Rodriguez on Darkness At Noon, Photo by Meghan Austin 

We packed our dusty asses into our vehicles and headed to Terrebonne for a celebration of sends and progress over food and drinks. All the while in between fits of laughter and discussions of the weekend I kept thinking about the real progress for that weekend. The ability to adopt the right attitude towards a seemingly impossible task. To look at something that seems unattainable and have the skills to break it down into smaller manageable pieces that allow me to see the growth in both my mental and physical progress. This attitude almost makes clipping the chains inconsequential; a byproduct. The real reward is in the progress, everything that happens in between the ground and the anchors. 

Thanks for reading the AntiGravity Equipment blog. I'll be posting weekly updates on redpointing my first 5.13 at Smith Rock. If you're in the Portland area, drop by the shop and say hi and stick around for a session at Stoneworks. 

 

Double Feature

Team SW/AG during Lost Rocks 2.0

Team SW/AG during Lost Rocks 2.0

Two weekends out climbing in a row! The last week of June and the first week of July have been absolutely amazing and much needed. I had a chance to travel with team SW/AG on two trips back to back with all types of climbing and partying included. 

The last weekend in June I traveled with the team up to Canada to celebrate my actual birthday. Half the group took advantage of an Air BnB in North Vancouver while the other half camped near the park. 

Our first day we all met up to boulder under the towering granite monolith, the Stawamus Chief. We wandered about the forest like hobbits with crash pads off on an adventure. The course granite shredded the baby skin right off our fingertips like cheddar to a cheese grater but we had fun climbing small boulders, slab problems, high-balls and overhangs. 

About half way through the day, the group split up and I headed back down to Murin park with my half of the group to try our hand at trad climbing. I've been to Squamish many times over the years but this would be my first time climbing trad there. The experience was humbling to say the least especially for not going past 5.9. We climbed a handful of zig-zagging routes on various terrain ranging from slabby to wandery to partially wet granite. Good times. 

One of the lines on the Sugar Loaf took a nasty bite out of Steven's elbow. 

One of the lines on the Sugar Loaf took a nasty bite out of Steven's elbow. 

The second day we all drove up to the Smoke Bluffs for a full day of trad climbing. The place was packed tighter than a dozen vacuum sealed hot dogs but the farther up the bluffs we hiked up, the less crowded it got. We arrived at a spot that had a few cracks near the grades we dared to climb and there were only a few people on them so we dropped anchor and got in line. Being primarily sport climbers, it didn't take long for a lot of us to feel like we were in over our heads while on lead. As my friend Tim put it, "Fish out of water". Still we managed to put up ropes one way or another and we all got to enjoy the afternoon and learn a little something about ourselves in the process. 

What are you supposed to do with these?

What are you supposed to do with these?

Our final day was completely the opposite. This day we were like ducks in a pond as we clipped bolt after bolt on the overhanging routes of Cheakamus Canyon. Tired and sore from the previous two days of climbing, we welcomed the simplicity and familiar movement of sport climbing. After we completed a handful of routes we started our 7 hour drive back to Portland with a successful weekend behind us. 

Warming up in Cheakamus Canyon

Warming up in Cheakamus Canyon

The workweek back in Portland consisted of catch up work for AntiGravity Equipment with lots of new products showing up at the store. Also, the tradeshow WWSRA was in town so I spent a few days meeting with all the vendors to get the sneak peaks on all the new gear for 2017. 

After that week flew by it was Fourth of July weekend, Saturday morning, as a large portion of the SW/AG team met up outside Stoneworks to load up and head down to Northern California for a weekend of bouldering and partying on the beach. 

11 of the 27 people that attended this year, piled up into the rented AntiGravity Equipment Sprinter Van along with pads, camping gear, and enough beer to stock an AMPM. About 7 hours later we were strewn about the beach like driftwood gawking at all the scenery and climbing boulder problems that were at least 7 feet higher than the previous year (due to tides washing out the sand). We reserved a huge portion of the meadow at nearby Kamp Klamath and after setting up SW/AG city we all got in line to take advantage of the delicious 4th of July BBQ the camp ground puts on each year. 

The second day we piled more people than there were seats in the van (to avoid overcrowded parking) and once again headed to the beach for more bouldering. With a little work and some shuttle service, we managed to get ourselves, our pads, and a cooler past high-tide areas and dropped anchor near a good concentration of boulder problems. The sun broke through the marine layer and all manner of fun and shenanigans ensued for the remainder of the day. Back at camp we split up into smaller groups to cook our dinners but converged around a big warm fire until the wee hours of the night. 

Our final day, we woke up, had breakfast and broke down camp as a group. Just before noon we were on the road looking for the pullout to Myrtle Beach along the Smith River. We descended upon this awesome swimming hole and cooled off in the river, jumped off rocks, dozed off in the sun, and got sunburnt to our heart's content. After our swim session it was finally time to part ways and head back to Portland in time to watch fireworks. Another successful annual trip with Team SW/AG is behind us. 

 

June Birthdays with SW/AG

I don't even know......

I don't even know......

Huh, looks like the last 3 posts have all been about birthdays. What can I say, we love to celebrate! We may not be the biggest shop in town, but I bet we have the most fun... just saying. 

Last week we all got together to celebrate all the birthdays in June. We had a spectacular water balloon fight followed by a BBQ. For the first time ever, our friends helped us put on a live show right inside the gym, and we finished things off with a keg of beer and some delicious chocolate cake. Check out Friday's adventures in the photo album below. 

A big thanks to everyone that showed up to celebrate! 

Birthday In Red Rocks

Team SW/AG posing with Meghan A. 

Team SW/AG posing with Meghan A. 

Last weekend Team SW/AG headed down South to celebrate Meghan A.'s birthday. It was a 3 day extravaganza of fun-filled unadulterated vacationing away from Sin City's plastic glitz and glamour surrounded by friends, family, good food, and of course, beautifully painted sandstone. 

I can't wait for choco chip pancakes! 

I can't wait for choco chip pancakes! 

The first morning found us sleep deprived and ready for breakfast food. We met at a nearby diner where my family (who still lives in Las Vegas) joined us for breakfast. It was good catching up with my sister, my niece and nephew, and my mom who I don't get to see very often. We had a good time laughing at the kids' shenanigans and like good uncles and aunts we taught them stuff we hoped would embarrass their parents long after we'd left town. 

Take the trail past a red rock, when you get to the next red rock go left until you reach a slightly redder rock....   

Take the trail past a red rock, when you get to the next red rock go left until you reach a slightly redder rock.... 

 

With bellies full of pancakes and chunky potatoes we ventured into the park's first pullout in search of Civilization Crag, a new section of rock found in the latest guide book. It took us a little while to discern this from that in the guidebook but the hiking wasn't too bad as it involved plenty of scrambling among strawberry colored tiger-striped sandstone (which is better than straight hiking). Once at the crag, the birthday girl and our friend Veronica experienced their first climbs on that extraordinary black patina.   

That evening, worn out from climbing and lack of sleep from the late night arrival we made plans to meet up with my brother from another mother. Mike (whom I've known since the 6th grade) and his wife Stefani met up with us at Honey Pig where we dined on a feast of Korean BBQ fit for king! We devoured plate after plate of beef, pork belly, sprouts, kimchi, and other delicious ingredients and washed them down with bottomless bottles of Soju, a distilled Vodka-like liquor that goes down dangerously smooth. As my friend Stefani warned, you don't know what hit you until it's too late. 

"Bring on the MEAT!" "Just look at yourself...."

"Bring on the MEAT!" "Just look at yourself...."

Hungover and  dehydrated but in good spirits, we headed out to The Pier on our second morning. We climbed a couple of routes in the shade hiding from the blistering sun and then packed in the car to go out of the main loop and into the calico hills to end the day climbing at Cannibal Crag. 

Meghan A. on Under The Boardwalk 

Meghan A. on Under The Boardwalk 

Veronica contemplating her hangover at Cannibal Crag 

Veronica contemplating her hangover at Cannibal Crag 

Photo op with famous climber... check! 

Photo op with famous climber... check! 

At Cannibal, Cameron spotted professional climber Jonathan Siegrist taking a rest day. We hounded him for a few minutes about climbing and projects and got the obligatory famous person photo op. He took it in stride and was really nice and down to earth. For the rest of that afternoon we played on slabby and steep routes circling the giant boulder and capped off Meghan's official birthday night with a trip down to Las Vegas Blvd to eat Mexican food on the strip.  

Our last day in Red Rocks was spent at the Black Corridor. We went from one side of the corridor to the other switching from technical and balancey moves to dynamic and over hung power fests. Cameron sent his 10d project and pretty much everyone had a good time climbing and goofing off. By the time we were finished, I had climbed 8 pitches and we still had enough time to hit Fatburger, the last great hamburger stand, for fat fries, burgers, and shakes before our plane ride home. 

Meghan A. climbing at the Black Corridor 

Meghan A. climbing at the Black Corridor 

Next up for team SW/AG, Lost Rocks 2.0!  

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Missy! 

Happy Birthday Missy! 

Last night, team SW/AG got together to celebrate Missy's birthday. We kicked off the evening with a ridiculously tasty feast at Marrakesh Portland where we congregated in the Sultan's Tent sitting low to the ground on comfy ottomans and benches surrounded by wall to wall carpeting and low hanging silks attached to the ceiling. We pushed together 3 decorative round tables so the whole team could sit together to share a huge family style meal but not before ordering a few rounds of beers and glasses of wine. 

Our waiter was hilarious and kept the group on their toes with his clever jokes. In a very matter of fact voice he introduced himself as Achmed, or Jordan for those of use that couldn't say it right and didn't want to "fuck it up". He gave us the low down on the Royal Feast which was the most convenient for a party of our size. It involved a set menu in which we got to try a little bit of everything by bringing out some 15+ dishes for us all to share. 

Our waiter Achmed, or Jordan if you're going to fuck it up. 

Our waiter Achmed, or Jordan if you're going to fuck it up. 

Once the food arrived, it was an absolute free for all of delicious carnage as we stuffed ourselves into state of gluttonous misery with several sweet and savory dishes like lamb tagine with eggplant, Marrakesh couscous, and honey chicken with almonds, prunes, and sesame seeds to name just a few. 

We celebrated with our friend Missy until our faces hurt from laughter. Somehow we left just enough room for a bite of cake because what birthday is complete without a wish and some candles! 

Our buddy Bill came through with the 2nd half of the evening's entertainment and got us all into VIP at Jones bar in old town. We figured it was OK to have more drinks since they don't really take up any room in your belly, they just fill in the cracks. Then we headed out to the dance floor to work off some calories before heading home. Happy Birthday Missy, we had so much fun celebrating with you! 

(Thanks to Holly T. for the majority of these photos)

 


Spring BBQ

Yesterday was one of the hottest days so far this Spring and Matt and I decided to break out the grill and get the gang together for a night of climbing, burgers, hot dogs and drinks! 

The afternoon kicked off with a trip to the grocery store to get all the goodies for the night's feast. Matt hooked up a list complete with good eats, drinks, and all the desserts that put a smile on your face but weighed you down on the rock. 

Gettin' the goods! 

Gettin' the goods! 

Later that afternoon, we set up in front of the gym and fired up the grill. Robert came down to man the station and before long burgers and franks lined the double decker. Team SW/AG began filtering in with extra beer and sides and before you knew it, Spring BBQ 2016 was in effect. 

We're all looking forward to the dry weather ahead and you an be sure we'll be planning more spring and summer fun in the coming months. I'm looking forward to more cookouts, epic water balloon fights, tossing the Frisbee around, and busting out the lawn chairs so Scarlet and I can enjoy our Burgerville milkshakes. #livingthedream 

Patti pitching a hang with the veggies

Patti pitching a hang with the veggies

Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom

Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom

Team SW/AG 

Hot Pot

Steven, clamping down on an octopus at Hot Pot.  Photo by Holly T. 

Steven, clamping down on an octopus at Hot Pot. 

Photo by Holly T. 

I feel like this year and most of last year has been the year of Yes-capades for more than a few members of Team SW/AG.  About a month ago, during a bouldering session with my friends Cameron, Michael, Maggie, and Danny, we found ourselves in a conversation about the many strange foods we eat in our respective cultures. Having traveled to a few countries, I've had the opportunity to try some strange food along the way. Some I thoroughly enjoyed, and some I wouldn't try again.  

It was during this bouldering session that we decided we would get a group together and go to Hot Pot for dinner with Maggie, Michael, and Danny as our guides into the culinary art of dunking raw ingredients into a boiling pot of delicious broth and then transferring back into our individual plates for our enjoyment and consumption.

What follows is a gallery depicting all the delicious food our companions ordered for us on a fun evening out in Beaverton, OR after a gym session. 

Bite Your Tongue

My alarm woke me up at 5:45 in the morning. As I lay in my stiff-mattressed bed, I took a moment to let my eyes adjust and let my thoughts drift to the schedule ahead. I had 15 minutes to shake the sleep off, do a quick personal groom, and gently wake one of the two climbing partners bunking with me before heading out of the room and across the property to the building that houses the community kitchen.

It was quite early in the morning. The night attendant had a few pots of water boiling for coffee on the gas burners. There was only one other pair of climbers at breakfast, a Canadian couple. I made my way to the refrigerator, and extracted a plastic bag from the multitude of other plastic bags and food containers crowded into the fridge from other climbers staying at La Posada. I turned on a couple of the many available stove-top burners provided by La Posada and began cooking up ingredients. Fresh bacon and eggs, avocados, and quesadillas made with flour tortillas and delicious Queso Oaxaca. Perfect fuel for 15 pitches of vertical limestone on a wall known as The Scrutinizer.

Michael on the first pitches of Black Cat Bone

Michael on the first pitches of Black Cat Bone

I felt a tap on my shoulder. No doubt it was my climbing partner for the day, Matt, coming to sit down for a quick breakfast so we could walk to the base of the climb at first light and get cranking. Matt had bad news. He'd done something to his lower back and woke up with pain that was preventing him from doing the climb. Not to worry though. He'd woken up Michael (our other bunk mate) and offered him up as climbing partner for the day instead. No worries, we sat down to breakfast and 15 minutes later, we were out the door headed to the crag. 

Michael had rented a car for the week so we took advantage and drove up the grueling, fully paved, 8 minute walk (3 minute car ride) to the base of The Scrutinizer. On the way, we passed 3 other local friends on their way to do Space Boys which was just to the right of our route. We parked and walked to the trunk and began unpacking gear. My first instinct was to grab my pack and walk the 100 feet or so that were left to the start of our proposed line and get ready. Michael however, was already putting on his harness and racking quickdraws right there by trunk of the car. In the twilight, there was just enough light to see by that we didn't need headlamps but at 5 minutes to 7, climbable daylight was fast approaching. Still, besides the other trio who had now reached the base of Space Boys, there was no one else around and rather than leave a bunch of gear at the base of the climb, I opted to get ready at the car as well so we could pack the extras back in the trunk. 

At what I'm sure was 7 a.m. on the dot, we were both fully racked up, rope in hand and ready to go. As we stepped away from the car, a pair of women were but a few steps ahead of us heading in the same direction. We fell in step, Michael behind them, me behind Michael, and we walked towards the route. The ladies stopped right in front of our climb and dropped their gear. They exchanged a few words among themselves which I could not hear but I did hear Michael ask which route they were planning to do. I definitely heard the reply, Yankee Clipper. 

This posed an obvious problem of "who was there first" but, in my opinion, wasn't that hard to figure out. Yes, they had reached the base of the route first and their gear was at the foot of the route, but the pair was not ready to climb. They had neither harnesses on, gear racked, or rope flaked. Michael and I were 100% ready to go on the other hand. In the past issues like these have been resolved by determining each party's plans and which party will likely be faster so as to decide who has the right of way. Our lady friends were having none of that. One of them sternly spoke up that they had reached the route first and therefore had right of way and furthermore, had no desire to climb underneath another party. Now, I should say that this could be a valid concern at a place like Potrero where rock fall from the pitches above is no joke, so I could see her point to an extent. So I interjected and asked if they had plans to link pitches on the route to gauge the speed at which they'd be climbing and assess whether it was worth it to wait. After all, they looked experienced so if they moved at a good pace and didn't dislodge any rocks on us, we didn't mind climbing under them. The reply I received was as stern as her partner's. They were going to move at their own pace and did not want to have any sort of pressure from other parties. On top of that, one of them apologized that we had not reached the climb first and that they had in fact beat us to the rock. 

At that moment I was pretty furious about the whole exchange and the seemingly unwilling attitude to work something out. There were all sorts of things I wanted to do that weren't very nice, one of them being the act of just tying in while they were busy talking and getting ready and going ahead with the first pitch anyway. That was probably the nicest of the mean things I was coming up with at the moment. I detected a level of incredulity in Michael's facial expressions but beyond that, I couldn't really tell what else could be going through his mind. Being the nice guy I know Michael to be, I didn't want to put him in an uncomfortable position so I held back from jumping on the rock. I tried to hold back the contempt in my voice and asked Michael to wait for a few minutes to see how fast they'd move and maybe we'd get in line behind them. 

Michael seconding shortly after the lower crux pitch. 

Michael seconding shortly after the lower crux pitch. 

I have to admit that it was getting really hard to contain my irritation while I waited there watching them get ready, conversing, and trying their best to pretend like we weren't there waiting and ready to go right beside them. I also know that I have a temper when I feel like people are being unreasonable jerks and I also know it takes a lot of self control to not act impulsively when I feel like that so I was looking for anything that could help me defuse the internal volcano within. After a few minutes more, one of them finally started up the first pitch, carefully picking her way up the greyish-white limestone streak. They had not taken the time to flake their rope and within a few bolts, the belayer was having to constantly stoop down to shake coiled bunches loose in order to feed out slack to her climber. Good, I thought. That's what you get! And then I could feel those bad thoughts rising up again and I thought, I'd quickly better do something nice before I do something mean. I was so pissed at that moment for waking up at 5:45, eating a quick breakfast and getting out there at first light only to get snaked on a technicality. I could feel the bad intentions building so I did the only nice thing that occurred to me at the moment and I walked up to the belayer, reached down, and flaked her entire rope for her so she wouldn't have to stoop, or risk short roping her slow-moving friend during her lead. Then, I picked up our rope and walked over to Michael, who unbeknownst to me, was almost as equally annoyed but had left to talk to our other friends who were getting ready for Space Boys. 

Michael and I signing the register atop Black Cat Bone

Michael and I signing the register atop Black Cat Bone

After a brief discussion, we agreed to climb the 9 pitch route called Black Cat Bone. By this time it was full daylight out and in the short time it took us to make a decision, Yankee clipper had two parties lined up willing to wait and climb behind our surly friends. I heard one of them call down to the other, "really, after all that shit talking?", presumably referring to our decision to abandon Yankee Clipper in favor of another route. Another party was possibly interested in Space Boys and so we thought we'd better get on something before we had to wait in line for any of the popular multipitches on The Scrutinizer. 

I don't really care about who was right or wrong, who was actually there first or who had the right of way. What really stands out for me about that morning were 2 things: how rare it is for me to encounter difficult attitudes in climbing, and the progress I've made in my ability to not behave impulsively in disagreeable situations. I've had so few interactions like this one in climbing that a discourteous attitude really takes me by surprise and leaves quite a lasting impression. So much so that it did take a while for me stop revisiting the encounter in my head. I had to focus to stop it from spoiling our backup climb. Though I usually try to see the other person's side, I had quite a bit of difficulty with this one because I feel like there wasn't even a bit of effort on their part to consider ours. Not only were they not nice, but I got the sense that they felt we were jerks for even suggesting that we might have the right of way.  

SW/AG crew 2016!

SW/AG crew 2016!

In the end, my experience on Black Cat Bone with my buddy Michael redeemed the morning's encounter. I watched amazed as my friend Michael on-sighted a very technical 10c crux pitch.  We crushed the route in just a few hours, summitted at circa 1000 ft and had so much fun at Michael's expense as he grabbed every single thorny plant on the climb, including sitting next to one on the summit. Each time Michael would cry out "OUCH, these plants are inhospitable!" and that became a regular SW/AG saying for the rest of the trip. On our rappel, we happily crowded an anchor with the same Canadians from breakfast and had a pleasant exchange dangling from ropes some 700 feet in the air. On our final rap, out of nowhere just resting on the ledge, I had a very heartfelt conversation with Michael about change and appreciation for the important relationships in our lives and I thought, how fortunate I was to have friends so close we can converse about serious subjects in harnesses 100 feet above perfectly solid ground in the middle of the Mexican desert. With a day like that, it wasn't hard to let go of the morning's unpleasantness and it was much easier for me look back on that exchange and feel good about keeping control of my emotions. In this way, I don't have to look back on the memory with regret for any petty actions. Instead, I now have a memory of discipline in personal growth and of connection with friends that make a difference in my life. 

Crowding the anchor with our Canadian friends. 

Crowding the anchor with our Canadian friends.